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Mississippi to benefit from passage of...

Mississippi to benefit from passage of National Defense Authorization Act

By: Sarah Ulmer - December 15, 2023

The Pentagon (Photo from Wikicommons)

U.S. Senator Roger Wicker played a key role in the passage of the bill. Among the provisions directly impacting Mississippi are $1 billion for construction of LPD 33 at Ingalls in Pascagoula, $33 million for a combat readiness center in Southaven, and $8 million for a fire and crash rescue site at the Jackson airport.

The Fiscal Year 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) made its way through Congress this week and is now headed to President Joe Biden’s desk to sign. The measure passed the U.S. House by a vote of 310 to 118 and the U.S. Senate by a vote of 87-13.

The defense policy legislation tops $870 billion and includes such national priorities as authorizing resources to ensure the United States military can prevail against adversaries in multiple theaters, including China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea, as well as providing for a 5.2% military pay raise for troops.

Congress must still pass spending bills for the Defense Department and other agencies, portions of which are set to expire January 19 and February 2, 2024, as part of the continuing resolution passed by both chambers in November.

Mississippi U.S. Senator Roger Wicker played a key role in crafting the legislation as the highest-ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee. On Thursday, he touted the inclusion of elements of his MERIT Act, which is designed to slash diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs at the Department of Defense, and his FINISH IT Act, which would force the Department of Defense to allow millions of dollars’ worth of unused border panels already owned by the U.S. government to be used to extend the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Enemies of freedom are growing more dangerous and capable by the day. Our bill should signal to China, Russia, and others that we will not accept a world where America does not have the best fighting force,” Wicker said in a statement. “While I would have preferred to send the President a substantially larger proposed investment in our industrial base, he now should approve the monumental investments Congress intends to make in our servicemembers warships, submarines, aircraft, and technology.”

Among the spending priorities outlined in the legislation are provisions that will directly impact Mississippi. Senator Wicker’s office provided the following rundown:

Gulf Coast

  • Authorizes more than $1 billion in funding to procure the San Antonio-class Amphibious warship, LPD-33, which would be constructed by Huntington Ingalls in Pascagoula.
  • Adds $72 million for the procurement of another APL-67 class of berthing barge, which would be constructed at Bollinger Shipyards in Pascagoula.
  • Boosts Columbia-class submarine full-scale shaft procurement at Seemann Composites in Gulfport.
  • Secures $6 million for continued operation of the Naval Small Craft Instruction and Technical Training School (NAVSCIATTS) in Hancock County.
  • Authorizes $2 million for planning and design to build a new air traffic control tower at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi.
  • Authorizes $5 million for aluminum-lithium alloy solid rocket motors, supporting work in McHenry.
  • Urges the Office of Naval Research to partner with public universities on optoelectronic technology related to solar cells. Research on this matter is already being conducted at the University of Southern Mississippi and would secure microelectronic manufacturing jobs in the state.
  • Authorizes $2.2 million for rail loading capacity and railcar storage improvements at Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg.
  • Authorizes another $5.4 million to complete a Maneuver Area Training Equipment site at Camp Shelby.
  • Authorizes $8 million for various autonomous surface and underwater vessels, supporting work for multiple companies in Gulfport.

Central Mississippi

  • Adds $8 million to construct a fire and crash rescue site for the 172nd Air Wing at the Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers airport in Jackson.
  • Adds $3 million in funding to support research on pavement repair materials for military missions, affecting the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) in Vicksburg.
  • Includes language to accelerate Pentagon efforts to partner with industry on bioprocessing for rare earths and critical minerals, supporting existing work at ERDC in Vicksburg.
  • Authorizes nearly $2.2 million for an Army Aviation Support Facility in Meridian.

North Mississippi

  • Authorizes $33 million for the construction of a combat readiness center for the MS Army National Guard in Southaven.
  • Authorizes $30 million to begin work on a ground-based training system facility for T-7A aircraft at Columbus Air Force Base.
  • Adds $9.5 million for a T-7A Unit Maintenance Training Facility at Columbus Air Force Base.
  • Authorizes $5 million in funding to support artificial intelligence and machine learning applications to tactical warfare, supporting work being done in Starkville, in consultation with Mississippi State University.
  • Prohibits retirement of T-1A training aircraft until the new undergraduate pilot training program is certified to be as effective as the previous program at Columbus Air Force Base, protecting jobs on site.
  • Mandates a Pentagon report evaluating the long-term sustainment, research and development, and procurement plan for (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected) MRAP vehicles, which are built by Navistar Defense in West Point.
About the Author(s)
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Sarah Ulmer

Sarah is a Mississippi native, born and raised in Madison. She is a graduate of Mississippi State University, where she studied Communications, with an emphasis in Broadcasting and Journalism. Sarah’s experience spans multiple mediums, including extensive videography with both at home and overseas, broadcasting daily news, and hosting a live radio show. In 2017, Sarah became a member of the Capitol Press Corp in Mississippi and has faithfully covered the decisions being made by leaders on some of the most important issues facing our state. Email Sarah: